By Dan Ross
In an open letter in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Frank Stronach announced that he will speak this Tuesday evening, at 6 p.m., at the Embassy Suites Arcadia Hotel, close to Santa Anita racetrack, about the future of horse racing in California, and the need for a Racing Charter of Rights that protects both the human and equine participants of the sport.
“Horse racing is much more than a business. It is a culture, a way of life, and an industry that directly employs one million people,” the letter states.
Frank Stronach writes in the letter, “I have always said that the key stakeholders within the industry are–the racetrack owners, horse owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and veterinarians. As stakeholders, we have to prove to the public that we love and care for the horses–not only while they are racing but long after they finished their racing career.
“That is why I strongly believe we need a Racing Charter of Rights where all the participants in our industry are protected, including the horses. I look forward to bringing forth a number of different ideas to you, the people which love horses. Let’s work together to set the highest standards in horse racing! I look forward seeing you on Tuesday.”
The open letter reveals little about the intent behind and the specific contents of Tuesday’s talk, nor about the Racing Charter of Rights, but it plays out against the backdrop of a bitter internecine fight within the Stronach family concerning The Stronach Group’s (TSG) billion-dollar family empire.
In October of last year, Frank Stronach dropped a bombshell lawsuit alleging that his daughter, Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group (TSG) and the person he appointed to run his empire, has mismanaged the family’s chief assets and trust funds, and has strong-armed control of the business from her father.
The lawsuit alleges that Belinda Stronach and Alon Ossip, TSG’s chief executive, conspired together in “a series of covert and unlawful actions…that have been contrary to the best interests of, and to the overwhelming detriment of, other members of the Stronach family.”
The suit seeks to remove Belinda Stronach from all corporate officer and trustee positions related to TSG, and demands $540 million (CDN) in compensation and damages.
In November of last year, Frank Stronach’s son, Andrew Stronach, filed a separate, but similar lawsuit alleging that his sister, Belinda Stronach, is guilty of “serious misconduct.”
In January of this year, Belinda Stronach responded with a statement of defense and countersuit, alleging that her father’s erratic behavior and ill-advised “passion projects” have cost the family some $850 million (CDN), “with hundreds of millions of this amount likely being irretrievably lost.”
Then, in February of this year Frank Stronach’s youngest granddaughter, Selena Stronach, joined the legal fray, filing a suit requiring her aunt, Belinda Stronach, to “pay or reimburse Selena for personal expenses that have historically been paid or reimbursed on her behalf through the trusts and/or TSG.”
When contacted by the TDN for comment, Tiffani Steer, Vice President of Communications at The Stronach Group made it clear that TSG is not associated with Tuesday’s meeting.
“The Stronach Group (TSG) is proud to have worked with the California Horse Racing Board, as well as jockeys, trainers and horsemen from all over the country to push for generational reforms aimed at protecting riders and horses throughout our sport,” Steer said. “To avoid any confusion, TSG is in no way involved with the Tuesday meeting that was proposed in a paid advertisement in today’s Los Angeles Times. The host of the proposed meeting has no involvement with or oversight of any of our tracks and does not speak on behalf of TSG or Santa Anita Park. TSG will continue to work with our sport’s stakeholders on progressive reforms to augment safety and bring the sport of horse racing into a new era.”
In Sunday’s open letter, Frank Stronach describes his rags-to-riches personal odyssey, starting a “one-man-tool-and-die shop,” and transforming that into “one of the foremost companies in the world with 175,000 employees. That company is Magna International Inc. I believe Magna is the only company in the world with a Corporate Constitution and an Employee Charter of Rights.”
Frank Stronach writes in the letter, “It was always clear to me a strong business is driven by three forces, smart managers, hardworking employees, and investors. All three have a right to the outcome, which is the company’s annual profit. I created a unique profit-sharing environment where employees understood they own a portion of the company. That is why they would not only work hard, but also think about how to improve the business.”